Monday, December 3, 2012

Le Serrurier, Part deux

     I’ve been trying to do a music related post for a while now but events seem to be dictating otherwise. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about getting locked out of our apartment and calling a locksmith. The guy that showed up from Artisans Girondins not only wrecked our old lock and door latch but charged us €1,403 for the privilege. His explanation was that our insurance would cover the whole thing and, just to show his good intentions, he’d hang onto our check until we got paid. At the time, this all sounded fishy but we didn’t have a lot of choice so we wrote the check and hoped for the best. After all, this is France, not Italy where I would have known better.

     As soon as we started checking the price of locks, we knew, I mean we confirmed, we’d been taken to the cleaners. And telling this story produced gasps, wide eyes and oh-la-la-la-la’s in absolutely everyone, so we were beginning to think that we’d been pretty stupid, at least I was anyway. (By the way, oh-la-la [not oo-la-la] is an all purpose conversational intensifier and the number of la’s is in direct proportion to its intensity).

     So first we went to the bank to try stopping payment on our check. In France, this is called an opposition and obviously doesn’t happen much because, after they finished gasping and oh-la-la-ing,  it took a couple of in-house phone calls to produce someone who actually knew the procedure. But almost as soon as we got home from the bank, Cynthia checked our account and discovered that about the time we were trying to stop payment, the money was coming out of our account. We’d been had. So we gathered up our evidence, consisting of the shrapnel that used to be our door lock plus the bill, and headed down to see the gendarmes.

     At the police station there was more eye-popping oh-la-la-ing and the explanation that, as in the U.S., this is a civil matter and we were going to have to take our troubles to the Tribunal d’instance, more or less small claims court, conveniently nearby. Here we got no reaction (used to it, I guess) – just the forms and instructions on filing a complaint, plus the name and address of the city’s mediation service, which it was suggested we should try first since the civil procedure could take months.

     A few days later, one of our friends emailed us a copy of a magazine article about fraud and consumer protection in France that lead off with examples of how serruriers routinely screw people all over the country with pretty much a carbon copy of what had happened to us. The article also provided a rundown of the many regulations and laws our locksmith had violated, plus the phone number for the Direction Départmentale de la Protection des Populationes, the consumer protection agency,which Cynthia called. Then, with the help of our friend Joëlle, she wrote out a couple of letters to the mediator and the consumer people, then wondered if we’d ever see any of our money again.

     About the time Cynthia was finishing the accounts of our tale of woe, the bank called to tell us our check had been presented for payment, did we still want to oppose it? I don’t think there is any way to translate into French, “You’re fuckin’ A right we do” but Cynthia got as close as she could. This time somebody had to call all the way to Paris to find out what to do. I have yet to figure this out but as near as I can guess, funds are deducted from your account before actually going into the payee’s, so money we thought was gone was simply in transit.

     Next day, a Thursday (and, coincidentally, Thanksgiving),  €1,403 magically returned to our account and the day after that, Cynthia answered her cell phone to find an irate French locksmith on the other end. She faked not really being able to speak or understand French very well while managing to get the point across that we were being cheated. Clement (this time we got a name) threatened us with a variety of annoyances including the aforementioned Tribunal and standing at our door until he got every last sou. To all of which Cynthia responded with some French equivalent of, “Bring it on, mo-fo”.

      Then the guy relented somewhat and decided to drop the price a bit, opening the door to negotiations. We went back and forth through several phone calls, culminating at about 9 that night in our final offer of €500, which we made clear was still too high. Telling us it was impossible but he’d ask his boss and call us on Monday, this was the last we heard from anyone and it’s now been over a week. 

      Cynthia and Joëlle polished up our letters and mailed them out last week, so now we wait. I wonder how this is going to turn out? I’ll let you know but I think it’ll be a while.

"Is this the date?" "No, it's the price...including tax!"

"And the duplicate new key, its a gift."

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